A celebration of the bicentennial of settlement at Middle Dural by Thomas Best, his wife Mary Becket Best and little daughter Esther, was held at Glenroy Cottage, Middle Dural, during History Week, on Sunday 8 September.
Around 80 Bests attended, from interstate and country NSW, as well as sending their best wishes from the UK. Most were relations of Thomas Samuel, the eldest son of Thomas, however we also welcomed representatives of Thomas’ siblings Peter (Gunning), and Robert Holt (Wagga Wagga) and Sarah Best Hancock. Mayor Dr Michelle Byrne, Pam Wilson from the Hills District Historical Society and Michael Bell President of the Dural and Districts Historical Society were special guests.
Liz Pellinkhof welcomed us to Glenroy Cottage, named in memory of the original house of James Frederick (Glenroy) on the corner of Cranston’s Rd and Old Northern Rd. which burnt down in mysterious circumstances following its sale (after the death of the last family member, Roy Spencer Best). Michael Bell spoke eloquently of the joys and difficulties of defending and maintaining heritage buildings in the Hills District; nearby photographic displays of the last remaining Best houses, St Elmo and Springhill, on the Old Northern Rd ridge (between Cranston’s rd. and Middle Dural Rds) illustrated his point.
As well, he noted the importance of the educational role of Historical Societies within the community. Jo Hambrett spoke on the recent restoration of three of the Best graves in St Jude’s cemetery. Sisters, Shirley Best Clark and Barbara Best Churchill, daughters of Fred and Ness Best sponsored the restoration project. The graves and obelisks of Thomas Samuel and wife Mary Anne and his sons William Alfred and James Frederick and wives are now an asset to the historic little cemetery and represent the pride the extended Best family feel for their ancestors.
Thomas Best and his brother John rest in Gunning C of E cemetery in a family vault. Thomas left Middle Dural upon the death of his wife in 1857 and moved to Tangmangaroo in the Yass – Gunning area. Rod Best, a family historian on the Best Family gave a very colourful and highly entertaining talk on the changing of social attitudes in the years between convicts George and Martha and the future generations. The formalities ended and the Best clan was free to enjoy the displays and partake of afternoon tea.
The generosity of the descendants of Thomas Samuel was staggering – displays of a sword gifted to Thomas Samuel by the Governor and a branding iron, wonderful photographs, a suitcase of letters and a family Bible to mention a few. To hold such a significant event in the home built by Fred (great grandson of Thomas), and Ness Best, now owned by Liz and Eric Pellinkhof, added an extra meaningful dimension to the significance of Middle Dural’s first settlers.